By Owen Gleiberman
Updated April 20, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
A Lot Like Love: Ben Glass

People in the first blush of romance can get a little satisfied with themselves (they develop an I’m worth it! glow). That attitude reaches a painful state of insularity in A Lot Like Love. Ashton Kutcher, with his studious dearness, and Amanda Peet, with her shark-grinned hauteur, may not set off sparks, exactly, but they have the chemistry of star-on-the-rise narcissism. They’re a mutual admiration society passing themselves off as lovebirds. In what may be the world’s first zipless meet-cute scene, Emily (Peet), a punkette who treats men like objects, lunges for Oliver (Kutcher), a shaggy sweetheart with an alt-rock wardrobe, by squeezing into an airplane lavatory with him, despite the fact that they’ve barely spoken. Over the next seven years, he cuts his hair and starts an Internet company, she knocks the postfeminist chip off her shoulder, and they continue to meet cute, flirt cute, and wistfully say goodbye cute.

So what’s standing in the way? For one thing, they live in different cities and appear incapable of carrying on the sort of conversation that involves things like phone numbers, frequent flier miles, and, you know…plans. They fall into other relationships — bad ones. Yet each new reunion leads them to a fresh apotheosis of puppy love. There’s the tee-hee wordless date in the Asian restaurant, the nude desert photo session, the Say Anything climax in which Oliver wails along with his guitar. (No scene has ever made you yearn so much for a boom box.) A Lot Like Love is a lot like a romantic comedy, except that all that’s keeping these two kids apart is the trivially insufferable movie they’re in.